A hotel and marina development to be built by Sirius Development on property primarily owned by the Moravian Church Conference got its first public airing Saturday at meeting held at Emmaus Moravian Church in Coral Bay.
About 75 people attended the meeting.
“There is much to be done, and it’s enlightening to us to hear your concerns,” said the Rev. Eulencine Christopher, who heads the Moravian Church Conference.
At the end of the meeting she asked those against, in favor or undecided to raise their hands. The answer appeared to be a mix of in favor and undecided.
“There is an awful lot of work and research they need to do,” Coral Bay Community Council President Sharon Coldren said after the meeting.
Sirius, which was originally known at TREX, has plans for an 89-unit hotel development on 10 acres of land that stretches along Coral Bay. The buildings would be two and three stories high with studios and one-bedroom units.
Plans for the marina are still in flux pending the completion of marine studies, said architect John Woods of the St. Thomas-based Jaredian Design Group.
The hotel development includes green space. A baseball field would be built on land sitting at the intersection of Route 10 and Route 107, with frontage along both roads.
Existing buildings that house the fire station, the former Guy Benjamin School and the Skinny Legs restaurant and shopping area would remain in place.
The unveiling comes on the heels of the Oct. 1 approval by the St. John Coastal Zone Management Committee of a 145-slip marina for Summers End Group. It’s located across the bay from the Sirius proposal.
That permit does not include a hotel but gives Summers End the right to manage the mooring field currently overseen by the Planning and Natural Resources Department.
“SEG has taken more than its fair share of submerged lands. Your marina plans overlap,” Jason Hayman said, referring to Summer End Group.
For starters, Sirius needs rezoning on some of the 10 acres.
“We have an application in to the Department of Planning and Natural Resources but haven’t been given a date,” Woods said.
The 10 acres are currently a mix of Waterfront-1, pleasure, Waterfront-2, industrial, public, and residential-2, residential low density one- and two-family. Some of the R-2 area needs rezoning to Waterfront-1. Woods said the land zoned P is a parking lot leased to the group from the V.I. Port Authority.
Woods acknowledged that should Sirius not get the required Army Corps of Engineers permit for the marina, more market studies would be needed to determine if the 89 hotel units were still viable. He said if the permit is not granted, 50 units would be likely.
Should the Army Corps approve the marina, Woods said Sirius initially looked at 80 slips, but that number would likely be reduced.
Woods said after it gets all the approvals, the hotel and marina would take two years to complete.
Residents who attended the meeting offered a slew of comments. Pam Gaffin told Sirius that plans for two reverse osmosis plants in Coral Bay were scrapped because the Army Corps wouldn’t grant permits. She suggested that in order to be successful, they’d have to run the pipe to beyond the limits of the bay. Additionally, she said that any wells would likely become contaminated with salt water.
“Every bit of plumbing will corrode,” she said.
She said water trucks would have to run all day long to provide enough water for the development.
As the plans now stand, guests will have to walk from their vehicles to the units.
“I’d rethink that if I were you. Tourists expect immediate convenience,” Carol Beckowitz said.
Gary Ray suggested that Sirius keep the sewage treatment plant away from the water.
“A lot of nitrogen is already going into the water,” he said.
The resort has only a pool, not a beach, and the views are minimal because the project sits at sea level.
After the meeting, Woods said he envisions making the development a yachting center similar to those in the nearby British Virgin Islands. Tortola has several such hotel and marina resorts that serve as home to charter yacht fleets, with the guests staying in the hotel before and after their charter trips.
He said the hotel would be mid-market, similar to a Hilton Garden Inn or Embassy Suites.
The development has been in the works since at least 2006, Woods said.